I started off like any other tourist cave diver; diving all the major caves, thinking Florida is all about crystal clear springs, major tunnels and which is has long ago been tapped out… as it turned out I was wrong on all accounts. I observed myself searching for caves further afield. and this led me to numerous off-the-beaten-track sidemount caves out within the middle of the woods.
Baptizing Spring was 1 of those caves. It has in no way got much targeted traffic or interest from the hordes, as it is only several hundred feet long. It is just as well that in my book, any cave is a fantastic cave and I made the decision to go and check it out. Baptizing Spring has an upstream and downstream section along with the exploration of every single is often a completely unique story. So very first let’s go with the flow and head downstream.
James went in very first with an 80cf tank and not considerably else but had no luck acquiring through. He looked at me and asked, ‘so do you want to have a go?
At first glance the crack looked impassable, not even massive adequate to fit a tank through, let alone a person. However, on closer inspection I realized that to the appropriate was a low flattener. Next thing I know – POW – I was in! I tied off the reel and created my way back to get some proper gear and my buddy. I popped out of the water and was so stupidly excited I could hardly get a full sentence together. The gist of the babble was – grab your gear we’re going diving!
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I had to push the 95s in front of me to get in there, which was no surprise. As I was dressing myself on the other side of the restriction, it became apparent that my buddy was struggling to obtain in. He ultimately waved me off, so I set off down the passage, picked up the reel and descended down the pit.
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It is tricky to describe the burst of energy and pure adrenalin that I was feeling at this time. It was all I could do to settle down the pounding heart and calmly tie off along the way. Nothing can beat the second you unwind a reel into entirely new and unchartered territory.
The entrance restriction is just the beginning. The entire location was choked up with sand so the going was tough; a couple of of the restrictions took a important quantity of time to negotiate. As the downstream is really a siphon this meant that the vis in front of me was non existent. Several instances I had to quit and chill for a while, hoping the vis will clear adequate for me to see which way was onward, after I had wedged myself into dead finish corners and crevices.
As it turned out James did follow me in eventually, he squeezed in with no gear and just the single tank, keen to have a look. But as he put it, I had redefined a restriction; he had to breathe out to get by way of the tight stuff.
It was certainly an thrilling discovery, to be ready to push via the tightest of restrictions. Yet, it was the upstream section of the cave that is the leading lady of this story. By all accounts there was only about 100m of passage, but I heard it was a fairly small cave.
At 1st it was challenging yakka, pretty low passage, filled with sand after which muddy clay. There is a fantastic 300m of wriggling, in in between a rock and also a challenging place; the restriction is unrelenting. Yet I pushed it, I persevered, I believed… and a lot more to the point I fit! Eventually the cave opened up a little… then it opened up some more. My third day there I was swimming in quite a sizeable passage. It is here that I experienced probably the most awful of moments, the line on my reel ended, and yet the huge cobalt blue passage ahead of me kept going. I dreamt about that passage that evening and what could potentially be around the corner. Determined not to expertise this disappointment again, the next day I took in two reels.
I kept going back, day after day for two weeks and each day unceremoniously dumped reel after reel into the cave and but it just didn’t end. In a couple of weeks I laid over 1.8km of line, it was incredible. I was keen to keep the discovery beneath wraps, given that in cave country secrets are tough to keep. I feared people could tell by the stupid and unrelenting grin on my face that some thing was up; either I was finding laid every single hour on the hour or I was laying line in a virgin cave. I feel extremely lucky to have gotten the opportunity to discover it all piece by piece with out any person breathing down my neck.
Finally at the end of the two weeks I realized I had to cease and survey. This was a difficult decision as the allure of seeing more unexplored cave was great. Yet it had to be done, since as they say, when you don’t survey you haven’t genuinely done it.
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